For cruise lines who sail in US waters and dock in its ports, top of the agenda at the moment are discussions around response planning requirements with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Plus, of course, resuming operations once the no-sail order is lifted, which will either be on 24 July – 100 days from its commencement on 15 April – or when Covid-19 is no longer considered a national public health emergency.
The no-sail order was issued due to the concerns ‘cruise ship travel may continue to introduce, transmit or spread Covid-19’ and only applies to ships with fewer than 250 passengers and crew onboard. It has been extended once already, from its initial commencement on 14 March, so it remains to be seen whether it will be extended again. In any case, cruise lines are preparing to sail again, with Carnival Cruise Lines stating it plans to resume operations from 1 August.
The operator said in a statement that eight of its ships would be part of the first phase of returning to service, sailing from Galveston in Texas and Miami and Port Canaveral in Florida.
In other areas, cruise operators will likely return to service sooner, with Royal Caribbean stating that it plans to resume much of its global operations from mid-June and Norwegian Cruise Lines hoping to recommence services from 1 July.
But cruising will likely not be the same for passengers – perhaps ever again. New hygiene measures will see some cruise lines end buffet-style dining, at least at first; while some will also stop allowing older passengers and those with pre-existing medical conditions onboard at least some of its ships for a period of time once sailing begins again. Passenger temperature checks prior to and while sailing are also in the pipeline, as well as on-board social distancing measures that could mean fewer total passengers onboard.
Whenever cruise lines are given the green light to sail again in different parts of the world, one thing is sure, re-establishing passenger confidence is going to play a major part in building up their business again.